Drones, Smartphones Eyed for Medical Aid to Remote Regions

Nancy A. Melville

October 02, 2013

In This Article

Smartphone Integration

However, the university's Health Information Systems Research Centre, which oversees the AMELIA project, is already moving ahead on another larger, multinational effort to integrate smartphone technology with existing health management systems.

In the so-called Supporting LIFE project, which has been granted €3.6 million in funding from the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme, the University College researchers are collaborating with scientists in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Malawi to make vital sign sensors widely available and transform the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) program into a mobile application.

The IMCI program was developed by WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund to give first-level local health workers in developing countries a means of assessing and classifying illnesses to identify necessary treatments or urgent referrals.

A big limitation of the IMCI program, however, has been that it is paper-based, and mobile technology would enable swift communications and the relaying of diagnostic information in real-time — when it is needed.

The scientists are working to begin the trial and testing of the e-IMCI solution in the Mzuzu region of Malawi in November 2014.

"Healthcare staff will be provided with digital diagnostic equipment to help improve their assessment of patient vital signs," said program coordinator John O'Donoghue, MD, from the College of Business & Law at the University College Cork.

"At present, [workers] lack sufficient decision support services and diagnostic equipment to better assess the health status of the patient," he said.

With a condition such as pneumonia, for instance, a patient may have a very low respiratory rate that may not be visible to the human eye, Dr. O'Donoghue explained.

"In using the respiratory sensor, the health worker can tell with confidence that the child's respiratory rate is low, and they can add this information to the e-IMCI application, which will highlight what guidelines need to be followed.

"Without the e-IMCI application or sensors, the patient's respiratory rate may not have been detected, and the correct guidelines would not have been followed."


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